For 25 years the tall ship Picton Castle has provided intensely memorable experiences to those lucky enough to be part of her globe-circling voyages. While changing lives, she has attracted attention, won awards, and provided aid to remote communities in far-flung island nations. She is a one-of-a-kind vessel, and she always has taken care of her crews. Now, Picton Castle needs help to continue her work. COVID-19 has closed many of the world’s ports, making it impossible for the ship to sail for some time. Without revenue earned through voyaging during these lost two years she will soon be unable to pay her bills. Please consider contributing to keep Picton Castle going so that her extraordinary voyages can resume as soon as possible. Asking is not easy for us. Yet, our need is urgent. We need your help to get to the next voyage.
There is plenty of good news. We are actually fully booked (with a waiting list) for our next world voyage. That means our revenue stream will resume, when we can sail. We will be back in the black. Though we have had to postpone our departure several times because of COVID-19, prospective trainees continue to insist they want to go. We hope to sail in spring 2022. We may have to defer departure until fall 2022. What we critically need now is help keeping the operation going until our revenue resumes.
Our fundraising goal is $250,000. While we have been paring our budget as much as possible for two years, some fixed costs cannot be trimmed, including ship’s insurance, annual certification expenses, wharf fees and minimal salaries for 3 ½ people.
What We Do in the Barque Picton Castle
The Barque Picton Castle is a “sail training” ship. There are no passengers: everyone aboard is fully involved as they learn about ships, the sea, and the lands we visit.
A voyage in Picton Castle is much more than simply an adventure. Sail training shapes crew members into better humans, better citizens with fuller views of the world. Through the process of standing watches, sailing the ship, growing as a team and learning genuine seamanship, crew members also learn responsibility, resourcefulness, teamwork, confidence, flexibility, and resilience -- all transferable to other situations after the voyage.
Picton Castle’s crew members come from all walks of life. We have had crew and trainees from 20+ countries, creating fascinating (and positive) experiences for all. The common, unifying factor is their passion to be part of the working crew of a classic square-rigged ship, sailing the world’s oceans.
Picton Castle and her crew do good works in the islands and ports to which we sail. We have delivered literally tons of donated books and education supplies to remote schools, set up medical clinics in villages that are rarely visited by health practitioners, and sailed on relief missions to islands in the South Pacific when supply ships were unavailable. These good works always make the voyage more compelling for those onboard. We meet foreign people at their own villages and homes and on their own terms, our crew absorbing rare cultural and life lessons along the way.
While at sea for considerable periods, our crew learn practical seamanship skills through instruction and hands-on practice. They learn the 205 lines, and how to work the 21 sails, while standing watches of four hours on and eight hours off, around the clock. They take their turn at the big teak wheel, on forward lookout, handling small boats, making sails, navigating, working in the rigging, scrubbing the decks, washing the dishes, tarring the rigging, scraping the varnish, and all the other things it takes to keep a 300-ton steel sailing ship going.
Ask our former Picton Castle crew about their experience aboard and you’ll learn that it was life-changing.
Why Picton Castle Needs Your Help
Picton Castle was set up intentionally to ‘sail on her own bottom,’ meaning that she has always paid her expenses with earned revenue. There is no foundation, or institution, or government funding to cover shortfalls at a time like this.
Picton Castle’s long voyages operate on a shared-cost basis. The fee trainees pay to join a voyage covers their portion of the expenses of the voyage. When we sailed home to Lunenburg in September 2019, we had built up enough reserve funds to see us through the planned winter lay-up.
We have now stretched our reserves from the fall of 2019 as far as we possibly can. We have cut every expense we could, short of giving up altogether. We have applied for every possible government pandemic assistance program. But keeping a large sailing ship afloat, even one not sailing, is not cheap. We still must pay for insurance, rent for our wharf, warehouse and office, utilities, ship’s certificates, and enough maintenance to keep her sound and seaworthy.
For decades, we have been proud of running a successful classic sailing ship operation without relying on donations or charity, while carrying out our powerful training voyages under sail. This pandemic has hit us hard. Waiting on the other side is a jubilant world circumnavigation, our eighth time around the world. We just need to get from now, today, until then, when Picton Castle sails again. You can make a critical difference by donating to this fundraising effort.
Where Your Donations Go
The ship herself needs to be continually insured, certificated and maintained. We have deferred some non-critical maintenance while keeping up with what must be done to keep her in good shape. Our current monthly fixed expenses while the ship is not underway are about $40,000 CAD per month (about $30,000 USD). This is a bare bones, shoestring amount. When Picton Castle is on a voyage, our monthly costs are considerably higher. Here are our current expenses, expressed in Canadian dollars:
Wharf/warehouse/office rent, utilities $ 5,200 per month
Staffing $ 15,800 per month
Office costs (legal, accounting, dues, postage, marketing) $ 3,850 per month
Insurance $ 10,500 per month
Ship operations (certificates, galley, maintenance, supplies) $ 5,200 per month
Total $ 40,550 per month
We have a hard-working shore crew of three full time and one part time. At different points since the spring of 2020, they have reduced their hours and/or their rates of pay in order to further reduce expenses. No one either ashore or onboard makes a salary to brag about.
Hoping to sail as soon as we can, we continually check in with our port agents, officials, and friends in ports on our projected path to see how conditions are changing. Naturally we follow the international agencies evaluating the COVID-19 situation. In order to green-light the voyage with confidence, we need to know that enough international borders will be open and that enough ports will accept visiting ships. We are starting to see some signs that we might be able to finally set sail in the spring of 2022.
How to Contribute
2. Send your contribution directly to our office in Lunenburg. Our mailing address is PO Box 1076, 135 Bluenose Drive, Lunenburg, NS, B0J 2C0, Canada.
You can also help by spreading the word. Please share this call to action with your networks, whether that’s via email, social media, or word of mouth.
Picton Castle Needs Your Help
This is the longest period of time by far that Picton Castle has been alongside the wharf, not making a voyage, in her life as a sail training ship. If we possibly could, we would be at sea right now with an eager crew of trainees and staff, teaching and learning the way of a ship under sail. But we’re not. The COVID-19 pandemic has blocked us from fulfilling our mission and our very reason for being.
In order to get through this difficult, unprecedented period, we need your help and we need it soon.